David Renwick: The "New Energy Economy" -Trinidad & Tobago
Will cross-border hydrocarbon development be a key part of what Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs, Kevin Ramnarine, describes as the “new energy economy” of Trinidad and Tobago, about which I wrote last week?
Curiously, the minister did not include it in his list of developments that fell under this rubric, which were: production from deep water wells, heavy oil extraction and the retrieval of conventional left-behind oil.
It must have slipped his mind when he spoke at the formal launching of the Black Gold book, celebrating this country's 106 years of continuous commercial crude oil production, but he did stress to me in an earlier interview that “cross-border hydrocarbon activity is going to be a significant part of our future.”
So we can take it as read that there are four elements which now make up his “new energy economy.”
If all four actually come to pass, it will clearly have a huge impact on both crude oil and natural gas production by the beginning of the 2020s, which will unquestionably transform the lives of the next generation.
What bliss it will be to be alive in Trinidad and Tobago in the 2020s, 30s and 40s. Regrettably, I won't be around then but my children and grandchildren certainly will.
What lends certainty to this new economy is that only one and a half of its component parts can be considered “high risk”. There is no risk as far as heavy oil and left-behind oil is concerned: they both exist for sure and the only challenge is the most economical way of getting them out. Cross-border hydrocarbons have been confirmed in the case of Trinidad and Tobago/Venezuela but not in other cases (see below) which ranks it as only half-assured. The one risky factor in the “new energy economy” is deep water drilling but if you listen to the pronouncements of BHP Billiton, the operator of all the nine such blocks that have been allocated for exploration, you could be persuaded that such risk is minimal.
I dealt extensively last week with the three original elements of the “new energy economy” and propose to focus this week on the new addition: cross-border hydrocarbon activity.
When one hears “cross-border”, one immediately thinks of the three pairs of such blocks that have been identified between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, where the existence of gas reserves/resources has long been known. These, of course, are blocks 6d and 2, blocks 5b and 4 and bpTT's Kapok acreage and block one, in Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuelan waters, respectively.
The discoveries in these blocks, which straddle the Trinidad and Tobago/Venezuelan maritime border south east of Trinidad and in what the Venezuelans call their Plataforma Deltana region northeast of the Orinoco Delta, have been estimated as follows:
Manatee/Loran (6d and 2) – 10.25 tcf, with 2.69 tcf on the Trinidad side and 7.3 tcf in Venezuela. Manakin/Coquina (5b and 4) – 0.74 tcf, with 0.48 tcf on the Trinidad side and 0.26 tcf on the Venezuelan side. Kapok (already productive)/Dorado – 0.31 tcf, of which 0.26 tcf is on the Trinidad side and 0.05 tcf on the Venezuelan side.
Although a Unitisation Agreement for the Exploitation and Development of Hydrocarbon Reservoirs in the Manakin/Coquina Field was signed between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela during President Nicolas Maduro's one-day visit to Port of Spain in February and Minister Ramnarine says “we are going to tackle the Kapok/Dorado discoveries soon,” these two are of little consequence (based on the reserves/resources figures just mentioned), when compared with Manatee/Loran, which is why work is now proceeding briskly on the last named.
Minister Ramnarine outlined the various steps that must now be in his recent exclusive interview with me: “The four companies involved (BG, Chevron TT, Chevron Venezuela and PdVSA) have to work out a Unit Operating Agreement, which then goes to the Directing Committee (of which the two governments and the companies are a part). If the Directing Committee approves the Unit Operating Agreement, it is sent to the Ministerial Commission, with each country's minister having a veto. At that stage, the Unit Operator will have been identified. Once the Unit Operating Agreement is approved, the Operator has 90 days in which to submit a Development Plan for the unitised gas, which the Ministerial Commission also has to approve.”
Talk about bureaucracy!
We will all be awaiting the Development Plan with bated breath, so we can see whether the Venezuelan side can place economics before politics (the tendency, unfortunately, under the last two administrations in Caracas has been to put political considerations well in front of economic ones. Economics would dictate that the initial monetisation of Manatee/Loran should involve Venezuelan gas being sent to Trinidad for commercialisation in LNG or even for domestic use.
When the Development Plan is being drawn up, somebody may want to remind the Venezuelan side that Caracas did concede to the possibility of “the monetisation of volumes of natural gas from the Plataforma Deltana in LNG trains in Trinidad and Tobago” in the August, 2003, Letter of Intent signed by former Trinidad and Tobago energy minister Eric A Williams and Venezuela energy minister, Rafael Ramirez.
We can deal further with TT/Venezuela cross-border activities on another occasion but it has to be stressed that minister Ramnarine considers cross-border potential so significant because other such possibilities exist – there is also potential Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados cross-border development.
The Framework Agreement between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, agreed to in September, 2012, specifically speaks of “implementing joint development plans or unitising hydrocarbon reservoirs existing in the respective continental shelves of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada” and the sharing of such reserves.
There are four blocks on the Trinidad and Tobago side abutting the delimitation line with Grenada: block 21, TTDAA 24, TTDAA 30 and part of TTDAA 31.
As for Barbados, no treaty has been signed but there are eight and a half Trinidad and Tobago blocks which, if discoveries are ever made there, could be cross-border with Barbados – TTDAA 15, TTDAA 16, TTDAA 17, TTDAA 20, TTDAA 22, TTDAA 23, TTDAA 29, part of TTDAA 31 and TTDAA 32.
And don't dismiss the likelihood of it happening – TTDAA 29 just happens to be one of the blocks in which BHPBilliton is drilling during its current deep water exploration programme.
David Renwick was awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 2008 for the development of energy journalism in Trinidad and Tobago. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by The Trinidad Express, on April 1, 2015. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.
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